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Old 03-01-2006, 09:35 AM   #10
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Re: Article: The Triangular Base of Training: Wisdom, Humility, and Self-doubt by "The Grindstone"

Amelia Smith wrote:
... the spiritual goal is not so much destruction of that ego as non-attachment to that outer self.
This is what the article suggests quite clearly. If there is a difference between what I have said and what you are saying the difference is that you'd like to call that "inner self" (what I called the "Self") the "ego." Either way, it is that attachment to the "outer self" (which I have summarized as our fears, our prides, our ignorance) that is the issue here - an issue solved by things like self-criticism, self-doubt, and self-reflection.

With so many "non-reinterpretations" of the article, again, I think John's points are very relevant here. We as a culture just do not like or trust these ancient tools of self-cultivation. The thing to do then is not to find away around such tools but to first seriously ask, "Are we avoiding these tools because of how deep-seated our ego-attachment (using my term) has become or have we really come to prove that they are useless, not necessary, damaging, etc.?"

Let us face it, there is indeed an underlying issue at work here. It is like when George wrote his piece - the one linked at the top of the article - and all sorts of folks wanted to write in and ask (in one form or another), "Well, I am not doing what you have described as ‘real Aikido,' I am only doing this, but is not my Aikido still real?" In other words, folks are reacting to the piece and they are reacting to it because they are being taken out of their "comfort zone." Here, we want to say true humility is possible, and that one can gain a distance from his/her ego attachment, etc., but we also want to say that we can do these things just like we are - with all of our ego (outer self) attachments and with our fears toward things like self-doubt, etc. Something has to click here or we are not even going to get enough distance from our outer self to realize we are asking to see our status quo behavior as spiritual behavior.

We want Johnny to be able to ask, "Well, can't I just develop a strong sense of ego, such that I just come to ignore how I think others are thinking of me -- a ‘I just don't give a crap about what you say Biff' kind of attitude -- and have that be a spiritual cultivation of the Self?" Things do not work like this, which is why any mentor is going to say, "In seeking to adopt that attitude you are only feigning non-attachment -- your false apathy is reactionary. In seeking to not give a crap about what Biff says, you are giving a crap about what Biff says. You are still attached to your outer self -- your pride as it is concerned with how you compare superficially with others, your fear as it is concerned with your pride to come out higher in such comparisons, and your ignorance as it is concerned with believing your pride and fear to be of wisdom."

I think it is easy to just go with our culture's tendencies (as John has described), to go with our fears, and suggest that we NEED such attachments and such fears, that we will cease to exist without such things, etc. From that point of view, we come to mix things with our common sense (e.g. Not one shoe fits all.), and eventually we no longer realize that we are still acting in reaction to our fears and/or via our ego ("outer self") attachments. At that point, we easily make statements whose sole purpose is to make room for our own status-quo - to find a way of having us be "legitimate" though we are clearly acting contrarily to the whole. For example, I think we have to understand the above statement about religions in this manner - because, in fact, one would be very hard-pressed to find any spiritual tradition that claims that distance from one's attachments to one's outer self does not begin with self-doubt (in all cases). I think the only kind of tradition that might say such a thing is going to be some of the newer one's, the one's that our born of reaction to our own culture's fears, the one's of or influenced by the New Age movement (for example).

Self-doubt requires a inner kind of confidence. This is true. This is why humility brings it own kind of power to our lives. Humility, true humility, is like true pacifism -- in that it can only be employed from a position of strength. It is true that the spiritual tool of self-doubt is quite different from timidity, etc. We all can understand this, I feel. However, then, let us not jump from the position that us timid folks, people not capable of developing the kind of strength that supports true humility, we who are lacking in inner confidence, can gain such spiritual virtues before we solve such frailty issues. Let us not say, "Because you have a frail sense of self, you can gain distance from your attachments to your outer self by developing a stronger sense of that outer self."

The work of cultivating humility is the work of cultivating humility, and thus such timidity issues are not a "move straight to humility" card we play at the end of a game. Rather, such issues become part of the entire process of cultivating humility. In reconciling those issues, in my opinion, one is not going to want to build up an even greater sense of ego, because one is then only setting out to do more work in the end -- a work they may then not be able to finish as the outer self becomes more and more repulsed by tools like self-doubt, self-criticism, and self-reflection. Rather, one should realize that the tool of self-doubt is already working when it brings to light the fears that one is attached to -- when one feels that in their timidity to doubt the outer self is to lose all hope.

David M. Valadez
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